GOLDSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) — Wayne County deputies have found fifteen victims so far who fell for a fake fundraiser, and are looking for more.
Investigators said Melanie Haynes of Wilson sent her three children door-to-door in neighborhoods near Goldsboro last fall. The children collected cash, but never provided items the homeowners expected.
“It’s one thing for an adult to go out and solicit funds for a cause that’s not real,” sheriff’s Capt. Shawn Harris said.
“When you take children and get them involved, and you’re teaching them this habit at such an early age, that’s something that we want to try to nip in the bud quickly so that it doesn’t happen again. Especially when you’re dealing with young kids like that.”
Investigators said Haynes held onto old fundraiser flyers from her children’s school in Wilson County. Harris said there were some red flags when the kids offered candy and other items to homeowners.
He said the children told customers that the schools weren’t accepting checks so payments had to be made upfront in cash. There was a promise to deliver the items later. They also didn’t mention the local Wayne County Schools to which the neighborhoods are zoned.
Detectives said most of the victims they have interviewed during the investigation admitted something was unusual, but didn’t want to contact law enforcement. Harris said that changed when someone in law enforcement came forward.
“She picked the wrong house,” he said.
A Wayne County reserve deputy gave Haynes’s children some money, but sensed something was off.
“He thought something was unusual, so he knew some people at the (children’s) school and he contacted them, and later found out that there was no fundraiser going on at the time,” Harris said. “(He) found out that the fundraiser was over, had been over some time, and with that information, they researched that (the children) had not turned in any type of funds to the school, and with that knowledge, then they knew that they had some type of scam going.”
Deputies arrested Haynes on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and obtaining property by false pretenses. They issued a community alert and asked other victims to come forward. During the first week of February, more than a dozen victims contacted detectives about encounters with the Haynes family.
People in the Buck Swamp area of Wayne County who were solicited in this scheme should call Harris at 919-731-1483.
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